- Do you find yourself avoiding family get-togethers?
- Dread a phone call from Mom as it can be an emotional minefield and it leaves you anxious and low for the rest of the day?
- Do you worry that you may repeat the same negative pattern of behaviour with your own children or indeed avoid having children of your own altogether?
A toxic mother is a mother who consistently ignores your boundaries, withholds love, or invalidates your feelings in any way (as stated below).
If you find any of these statements relatable, read on. You may have a toxic mother.
Two very important things to remember:
- It’s not your fault that she is treating you this way;
- and with some intervention, you can lessen or totally eradicate the negative impact it is having on your life.
So what Makes a Toxic Mother?
It is important to remember that most parents are guilty of a few, and even all, of the following traits, at least some of the time. This is normal, and most often not harmful. The distinction between fallible parents and a toxic mother, however, is that she will constantly or regularly display two or more of the following characteristics.
Constant criticism She is perpetually disapproving and a perfectionist. Your inner critic probably sounds just like her! This is an area that will definitely need work to strengthen your self-confidence and retrain that inner critic. As a child, you are likely to have been criticized often. This toxic mother is also likely to spot a tiny fault in an otherwise perfect offering, and her perfectionism will cause you to feel never quite good enough, no matter what you do.
Controlling behaviour She often has a strong, overpowering personality. Strong, ‘Lioness’ women are a positive thing, however, the Toxic Mom will probably still be issuing you instructions on how to behave, what to wear, and what to do, even when it’s completely age-inappropriate. Her tone of voice is often all it takes to either paralyse you or get you taking action in regard to things you do not wish to change. It is probable she will display toxic controlling behaviour in most relationships in her life.
Guilt-tripping and manipulation The Toxic Mother will often actively work to make you feel guilty or responsible for her bad behaviour, often when she cannot have her own way. She is, of course, an expert on your emotional weak spots and can play masterfully with your emotions. After all, she knows you very well. As above, do you find that despite your best intentions to the contrary, you sometimes just react in response to something she says or does? That’s very probably the Manipulator pulling your strings.
Humiliation She will regularly make negative comments at your expense in front of family and friends, without regard for how her words may affect you.
Invalidation of your emotions you will find that should you at any point try to address your unhappiness at the way she treats you, in particular, expressing anger towards her, that this is not allowed or is punished with passive aggression (below). This then can result in making you feel that you had better not share any negative feelings with her, as rather than clear the air and sort things out, the Toxicity increases.
Passive aggression can be experienced as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behaviour. This toxic mother will not outwardly express her anger or resentment towards you, but might, for instance, deliberately forget an event, turn up late for an important appointment, or act distant towards you for no apparent reason. The toxic mother is showing her displeasure without saying a single word!
Ignores personal boundaries – Examples can be; invading your personal space (bedrooms etc), opening and reading your private mail without permission, looking at your computer or phone to read your texts or messages, contacting your friends to discuss you inappropriately, or showing up at your house anytime and unannounced. This shows a lack of respect and her need for control over every aspect of your life.
Free personal boundaries tool: https://lionesspower.co.uk/free-personal-boundaries-tool/
How Does Having a Toxic Mother Affect Relationships?
It goes without saying that the relationship between you and a toxic mother is unlikely to be healthy or nurturing. Toxic mother-daughter relationships, in particular, are very common, with toxic mother-son relationships slightly rarer. Dysfunction in this primary connection affects all aspects of a person’s life, and awareness of this, especially in women, seems to be on the rise which can only be a positive thing as not addressing this issue can lead to feelings of;
- Not being good enough
- Feeling shame or the sense that there is something wrong with you
- The feeling that you must remain powerless to be loved
- Not being your full self because you don’t want to threaten others
- Having a high tolerance for poor treatment from others
- Lack of your own emotional caretaking
These feelings and an inner sense of disempowerment and worthlessness are ultimately what will shape all relationships in your life. It takes no stretch of the imagination to see that this influence is not positive and urgently needs to be addressed. In some cases, negative coping mechanisms can include eating disorders and substance abuse. Due to feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness, it has also been connected to an increase of the susceptibility to controlling or abusive relationships and domestic violence.
So Now That We Have Identified What A Toxic Mother Is, How Can You Move Forward?
Due to this personality trait, unfortunately, it is very unlikely you are going to be able to change your mother’s behaviour, but you can work on your relationship with yourself so that the effects do not have a negative effect on your life. One of the ways to do this is to set boundaries with people who make you feel bad. If you find that interacting with your mother makes you feel worse about yourself, then it may be time to set some serious boundaries with her. Time to take back control!
This is something that a Life Coach can help you with should you find it difficult. To set, and more importantly keep these boundaries you will need to strengthen both your self-confidence and self-esteem and get in touch with your core values. Once you are aware of these values, you will know that once they are breached, along with your boundaries, it is time to act, and with the support of the Coach, you will have the confidence and the skill set to do this in a positive way. Going forwards, these skills will have the added benefit of enhancing all relationships you have, be it with your friends and wider family or partner/husband/wife etc.
Why consider working with a Life Coach
Realising that you need help to deal with an issue is most often the first, important step in any healing journey. If reading this is triggering, it may be an indication that there’s something active in your psyche that needs your attention. However, it would not be advisable to tackle this one alone.
You might not know if the relationship with your mother is abusive or toxic. The goal of working with a Life Coach is to take some time to understand your feelings, process them, and find ways to cope. An unbiased listener who cares about your well-being can help you learn healthy ways to cope and move forward. It may come as no surprise to you that children of toxic parents tend to experience more mental health issues (compared to children of healthy parents). However, there is hope. Research shows that online therapy can be a powerful tool in reducing parent-child conflict, thus reducing the mental health issues that children of toxic parents experience.
It is almost a given that you will have significant blind spots regarding your mother’s behaviour towards you, even when you consciously identify her as a serious negative force in your life. She is your mum, after all, and at least a part of you loves her; critically thinking about her could feel like a betrayal, and make you feel unsafe and upset. These feelings could impede and even halt any self-healing effort. Only a trained Coach will know how to navigate these difficult waters and help you on the journey to living your best life, free of these emotional shackles.
Best wishes Jayne x